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Museum of Western Colorado

Museum of Western Colorado Dinosaur Digs

toll-free 1-888-488-DINO
Fruita Colorado
Lots More to Do for the Whole Family
Rafting on the Colorado River, Rodeos, Winery Tours, Museums,
and the Home of
Mike the Headless Chicken.

More Reports Linked Below
(Links to be added soon)

July 23, 2005

The Museum of Western Colorado staff leads a group of diggers from
all over
the country on an Adventure of a Lifetime.
© Oak Park Journal photo

A Dinosaur Expedition for the Whole Family
by Ed Vincent

Dinosaurs and children are two things that go together well in
Oak Park.  When Paul Sereno
came to Wonder Works: A Children's Museum in Oak Park recently for a lecture that kids
and adults would enjoy it opened a lot of interesting doors for
our readers and students in District 97.  There are many dinosaur excavating regions of the United States that people could visit,
so we narrowed are search to those that would take entire families and be affordable.

The Museum of Western Colorado, located in Fruita, Colorado,
came to the top of the list.  Dr. John Foster, the Curator of Paleontology at the museum has assembled an incredible staff
of paleontogists, workers and volunteers.  The staff is not only
well informed, they are helpful and polite.  None of the visitors
on this dig had ever done any paleontological work before.

The expedition, the dig starts early in the morning to avoid the heat
later in the day.  The loose woven screening suspended above reduces
the ground heat from 145 degrees fahrenheit in the sun, to a mere 85 degrees fahrenheit in the shade-and don't forget that it is a dry heat.

© Oak Park Journal photo

For as little as $99.00 for a one day adventure a person or child
can help or find by themselves dinosaur and other ancient fossil
bones and impressions.  I thought in the beginning that we would
be going to an area where bones might be found, or perhaps not
be found.  This group was not left entirely to chance, the Museum
of Western Colorado uses these trips to educate people, treat
them to the love of discovery, science, and to help them search
well established beds of fossils.  They also raise funds for their
staff and to cover expenses.

We arrived a little after 8:00 in the morning at the Museum and
were greeted by Mr. Don Chaffin, a retired chemical engineer
and now the Field Coordinator for the digs.

Mr. Don Chaffin, Field Coordinator for the Museum of Western Colorado,
shows what type of bones may very well be found during the dig.
© Oak Park Journal photo

Mr. Chaffin shows some of the dinosaures that lived in this area,
and were fossilized in the strata that will be dug on the days
excavating.  He also points out a hill nearby where one of the
first dinosaur skeletons was removed and brought to the Field
Museum in Chicago.

An assistant on the Elmer Riggs dig poses by a large
bone of an apatosaurus. The time was the early
1900's and the location is stones throw away from where
we were digging this very day.  This bone would travel
to Chicago's Field Museum.

The next person we meet is the team's Vertebrate Paleontologist,
Lorin King, and supervisor for the dig.  Mr. King begins
by warning of the need to drink plenty of water and that he
has never had a person suffer heat stroke on one of his digs,
and with the low humidity, your body will thank you.  The
museum supplies plenty of ice cold water, shade and food to
last the entire day.

Mr. Lorin King, Vertebrate Paleontologist, and Dr. John Foster,
Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of Western Colorado,
relax a
moment and discuss the morning's dig.
© Oak Park Journal photo

Mr. King explains to the new comers how one looks for
dinosaur remains, what tools to use and more importantly-
how to use them.  He then gives a brief talk on what has
been found at this site and what you might expect to find
in today's digging.  He also notes that anything is possible,
and by the end of the first day many new exciting things
were to be found by the first time amateur paleontologists.
Before lunch a large leg bone from an apatosaurus is to
be prepared for removal from the site.  On some bones,
where small fractures may make the bone susceptible to
breakage when being moved or to insure its integrity,
polyvinyl acetate can be added to help keep everything

(Polyvinyl acetate is not the only compound that is used
to provide the service of adhesion.  Some of the
will also inhibit mold and fungi growth, adhere
and often allow for removal as easily as application.

Solutions can vary from 5% to 30% of the polymer in a
soluble acetone solution, 5% good for penetrating into
the smallest cracks and 30% working just fine as a glue
to hold larger pieces together. The acetone quickly
and leaves the polymer to do its work,
the acetone can
also be used to remove the polymer
later if needed.

After paper towels that have been wetted are applied to the bone,
plaster is mixed and applied - and then more plaster.
© Oak Park Journal photo

The plaster is now drying, and after a nice lunch in the shade it will be
ready to be removed and brought to the museum's lab for more work.
© Oak Park Journal photo

Morgan Sloan shows her new gloves of plaster, that might
go well with the hair color, but will soon crack when she
tries to eat her lunch.
© Oak Park Journal photo

When lunch is over the dig continues, there is a large leg
bone to be removed and some exciting finds to take place.
There are on average about one new type of dinosaur found
each month in the world.  Even on a dig like this there is
that possibility.  We met two men who found dinosaurs of
new species and two men who had them named after them
too.  Gastonia, a ankylosauria member named after Robert
Gaston ( a well known Fruita native and artist) and
Lin Ottinger who has the Iguanadon ottingeri, named after
his discovery (from Moab Utah about 90 miles away).
More on these men later.

Dana Wille, 6 years old has a small stuffed animal
and tool (
the tool is the official digging instrument,
the small stuffed cat is just for inspiration
) she
will soon watch her mother find a beautiful tooth
from an Allosaurus.

© Oak Park Journal photo

The removal of the plastered bone is the next event,
requireing the work of  Lorin King and Dr. John Foster

Dr. John Foster, Curator of Paleontology of the Museum of
Western Colorado carefully removes the last obstacle holding
the bone in its nest for the past hundred million years or so.
© Oak Park Journal photo

Bob and Rhonda Wille brought their 6 year old daughter
with them to have one in a series of digs that will
probably appear in their future.  Bob is an ex-NASA engineer
who now works for the Ford Motor company and designs
the Ford Mustang GT, but Bob is also a dinosaur nut.  He
has replica skulls of therapods, bone sections, and more
all around the house.  Rhonda Wille seemed to be finding new
bones and ribs each time she took to digging, even in areas
where other people were digging, too.  She had no sooner
revealed a new rib section of a large animal, when she came
upon a beautiful tooth from an allosaurus.  The tooth did
not have a root attached to it and that often means that it
was broken off during a meal.  If the root had been found
on the tooth we are told that there would have been a very
good chance of finding the skull to the allosaurus nearby.

Since we started early we also quit before the sun gets to
be the hottest.  Tomorrow we will all meet in the labratory
of the Museum of Western Colorado.

Don Chaffin, the Field Coordinator for the Museum of
Western Colorado,
is also the teacher of how to make casts.
© Oak Park Journal photo

The molds are first sprayed with a silicone coating that will
help the plaster compound be released once the cast has
hardened.  The two halves are joined together and secured for
time to do its part.  This does not take millions of years though,
only a few hours.
© Oak Park Journal photo

After the casting is completed we are all shown how to carefully remove matrix from the fossil.  The process uses air pressure that drives hardened tipped engravers.  Much of the work is done by the tools vibrating the material away from the fossil, you don't use a lot of force.
© Oak Park Journal photo

Everyone gets to work once they have their tools
and instructions (
and now this can go on your resume).
© Oak Park Journal photo

Mom and daughter work together and help to free the fossil from
its home.
© Oak Park Journal photo

Above is a casting of an allosaurus and the real claw of an allosaurus below, being held carefully by Mr. Walt Williams.
© Oak Park Journal photo

After the lab work and lunch it's back to the dig.
© Oak Park Journal photo

Lorin King kept a good record of what was found where and is recorded.  The many bones found came from many different dinosaurs and the
tracking of finds is very important.
© Oak Park Journal photo

Who know what we will find tomorrow ?????
© Oak Park Journal photo

Everyone had a good time and left with experiences
that few have, finding and removing dinosaur bones
millions of years old.  It is something to dream about
and something that brings retired folks here to help at
the museum.  This is a great deal of fun for the whole
family and great experience.  Highly recommended.

Check the links above and see what all else there is to
do in this great land of exciting vacations.

Dinosaur expeditions in Western Colorado

There are many companies offering the opportunity for
individuals or groups to participate in dinosaur
expeditions.  many of these digs emanate from the well
know Dinosaur Diamond in the western region of
Colorado and into some parts of Utah.

area IS DRY, windy, and sometimes very hot, these
are all good things for dinosaur fossils. 

The first
recorded full scale dinosaur in the entire world
came from Haddonfield, New Jersey.  In 1858,
Parker Foulke a refined
Victorian gentleman and fossil
enthusiast was looking in shallow (
20-30 foot deep) marl
pit (
a mix of various clays, calcium and also magnesium carbonates, with some shells for good measure).  He had
heard in his investigations that some two decades earlier
farmers had found large bones in such a pit.  He did well
to heed their history for soon he came upon a nearly
full skeleton fossil of a dinosaur that would bear his name
from then on, the Hadrosaurus foulkii 
(genus Anatosaurus
and related genera that had webbed feet and a ducklike bill).

A little earlier in time, on Prince Edward Island, a man
named Donald Mc Cloud was digging a new well in 1845.
Mr. Mc Cloud found the skull and some bones from a
Dimetrodon (a predatory synapsid 'mammal-like reptile'
genus-the very same that lead to our evolution). 
At first
they had the wrong name given to it, but more bones
and evidence showed what he had.  Those are two of the
most exciting finds in the eastern portion of North
America.  T
here could be many more dinosaurs found
in that
region of the world.  The problem is that much
of that
area is covered with industry, condos, and

If you look at the current digs being conducted globally
majority are in regions geologically similar to
western Colorado.  It is easier to find dinosaur bones
where the earth has either forced its millions of
years old rock and soil up above your feet and
beyond  the surface and weathered itself to show the
secrets of
the past. Weather continuous surface erosion
and has
cut its way down into the layer of time when
dinosaurs roamed the earth. Someday when
penetrating radar and other devices for viewing

formations beneath the soil have improved
technologically, the areas open to exploration for
dinosaur fossils will be greatly expanded. 

The practical
concerns for modern day explorers is
where and how do
you look for dinosaur fossils.  There
are many
companies providing these services, many on government land and some on private.  On the one we
just recently was in Fruita, Colorado.  We chose
Fruita because it houses the Museum of Western
Colorado (Dinosaur Journey) and offers a participant
the chance to find their own bones and to be instructed
by some very knowledgeable staff.

Their rates and dates are listed below, or follow the
link right here.

Museum of Western Colorado

Museum of Western Colorado Dinosaur Digs

toll-free 1-888-488-DINO

Day Digs run most Mondays and Tuesdays from June through
September and are a perfect way to “get your feet wet” in a
dinosaur quarry. The Three-Day Field Digs offer even more
in-depth adventure!

2005 Schedule

These days fill fast, and there are limits to the number of
participants, so make your reservations by calling toll-free

1-888-488-DINO today!

Dig for dinosaurs, turtles, lizards and mammals in the colorful,
150 million year-
old badlands of the Morrison Formation. We
offer one- and three-day digs at a site in western Colorado and
five-day digs in Wyoming. Choose whichever one
best suits
your interests   


Site: Little Houston Quarry
Limit: 15 people (Minimum 7 people)
Dates: August 15-19, 22-26
Fee: $1099 per person


Site: Mygatt-Moore Quarry
Limit: 12 people
Dates: June 8-10, 22-24
July 6-8, 20-22
August 3-5, 17-19
Fee: $695 per person


Site: Mygatt-Moore Quarry
Limit: 12 people
Dates: June 1, 2, 3, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30
July 1, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29
August 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26
Fee: $99 per person

For western Colorado digs, the Museum provides transportation between the museum and the quarry, lunch and water/Gatorade,
field instruction from a professional paleontologist and a tour
of the Dinosaur Journey Museum

The three-day digs include all of the above as well as two dinners
and an introductory lecture.

The five-day digs in Wyoming include transportation from Rapid
City, SD, to Sundance, WY, and to and from the quarry, five nights lodging in Sundance, lunch and water/Gatorade, field instruction
from a professional paleontologist, a visit to Devils Tower National Monument and a tour of the lab at the South Dakota School of
Mines & Technology Museum of Geology.

TERMS: Prepayment of 14 days in advance guarantees reservation. All transportation, lunch, drinks and field instruction are provided. Children under 16 must be accompanied by a participating adult; not recommended for children under 5. Please note dig schedule may change

Weather conditions are unpredictable. Bring hats, insect repellant, sunscreen, sturdy shoes and sweatshirt or light jacket.

Museum of Western Colorado

Museum of Western Colorado Dinosaur Digs

toll-free 1-888-488-DINO

© Oak Park Journal
published by Suburban Journals of  Chicago Inc.

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